Robin's Adventures

Sri Lanka
The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Yala National Park

Yala National Park, which covers 378 square miles, has a variety of beautiful forest, grassland and wetland ecosystems. The area, which was made a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and became a national park in 1938, is home to 44 different species of mammals and more than 200 bird species. It has been said that Yala also has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.


We came across quite a few elephants on our game drive. The Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), which is a subspecies of the Asian elephant, is generally about six to twelve feet tall and weighs about 4,400 to 12, 000 pounds. It is interesting to note that most females do not have tusks and that only 2% of the males have large noticeable tusks.

An Elephant Family

Sri Lankan elephants tend to live in small family groups led by a matriarch. Mating occurs during the rainy season and females are pregnant for about 22 months, which is longer than any other mammal.

When a calf is born it will weigh about 220 pounds and it will suckle using its mouth because a newborn calf needs several months to actually have complete control of its trunk muscles. This makes sense when you consider that an elephant's trunk has more than 100,000 muscles. A calf will nurse for up to five years.

Elephant Shenanigans

Spotted Deer and Wild Boar

The Ceylon spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonensis), live in small groups that can be seen grazing on grasses and leaves in the forest and grassland ecosystems. Only the males have antlers which have three tines and can take up to five months to regrow fully after they are shed each year.

We also saw quite a few Wild boar (Sus scrofa affinis). These animals, which tend to live in small family groups, eat plant matter and also small animals, such as mice, lizards, and snakes. They are excellent diggers and use their long flexible snout to dig for tender roots and bulbs.

Tufted Gray Langer Monkeys

Tufted gray langurs (Semnopithecus priam) are vegetarians and eat mostly leaves, fruits, and seeds. They tend to live in groups of 20 to 50 and usually stay within a particular territory.

Spotted deer like to hang out near the langurs because they have excellent eyesight and can spot predators easily from the treetops. The warning call of the langur alerts the deer that a predator is nearby. The deer, which have an excellent sense of smell, return the favor by alerting the langurs when they detect a predator.

Wild Buffalo and Mugger Crocodiles

Wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) like to hang out near waterholes where they can cool off while enjoying a snack on some of the water plants. They also graze on grasses as well as leaves from trees and shrubs. The buffalo are seasonal breeders and the males hang out in bachelor groups when it is not breeding season.

Mugger Crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris), which live in fresh water environments, can grow as large as ten feet in length and weigh about 1,000 pounds. Yala National park is said to have the largest population of Muggers in the world. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, the muggers will dig a burrow and hang out inside until the temperature is suitable for them to go out again.

Small Furry Fellows

The Indian Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii), is a good hunter who eats small rodents, lizards, snakes, small birds, and beetles. The mongoose, which is immune to snake venom, is able to fight and kill cobras and other venomous snakes.

We also met some of the local squirrels, such as the Palm Squirrel (Funambulus palmarum), and the local rabbits, like the Black-naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis).

Bengal Monitors and Peacocks

Bengal Monitors (Varanus bengalensis) like to hang out in dry forests and farmlands, especially coconut plantations. They spend the night in burrows and the day hunting for small prey, such as beetles, grubs, and snails, which they consume in large quantities. Land monitors are very adept at climbing trees and have been known to do so in order to stalk and catch roosting bats.

The Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus), who lives mostly on the ground where it eats grains, snakes, lizards, and small rodents, tends to run through the underbrush rather than fly when escaping a predator. The birds generally roost at night on tall trees.

Water Birds

We saw a Spot-billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) and a Little cormorant (Microcarbo niger) try to land on a branch at the same time. The cormorant was a little quicker and the surprised pelican flew off.

Other birds that we saw hanging out near the water were a pair of Black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus), a colorful Painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala), and the watering hole buddies, the Yellow-wattled lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus) and the Red-wattled Plover (Hoplopterus indicus).

Hunting from a tree overlooking the water we spotted a White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis).